Inside the Major: Q&A with Lauren Gong, Cognitive Science Student
For our latest installment in the “Inside the Major” series, we spoke with one of our own interns, Lauren Gong, who majors in cognitive science at UC San Diego with an emphasis in HCI or Human-Computer Interaction.
Cognitive science is defined as “the study of thought, learning, and mental organization, which draws on aspects from fields like psychology, linguistics, and computer modeling.” UCSD’s department website explains:
“[Cognitive science] emphasizes three main areas of study:
Brain – the understanding of neurobiological processes and phenomena
Behavior – the experimental methods and findings from the study of psychology, language, and the sociocultural environment
Computation – the powers and limits of various representations, coupled with studies of computational mechanisms.”
1. Why did you choose your major?
Coming into college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study. I knew that I was interested in the brain so I decided to take an Introduction to Cognitive Science class my freshman year. It was the first class that exposed me to the interdisciplinary nature of cognitive science. I was intrigued by the way that the field sought to combine psychology, neuroscience, and computer science into one major. For me, having an interdisciplinary major afforded me the opportunity to explore a variety of interests which really appealed to me.
Specializing in Human-Computer Interaction was a completely separate decision. I had never had any technical experience in computer science but was drawn to the idea that design could be coupled with cognitive science. Specializing in HCI gives both a technical challenge and a hands-on approach.
2. What’s one of the misconceptions about your major and how would you respond to it?
One of the things that comes with being in such an interdisciplinary field is that you are exposed to a lot of topics. A lot of people assume that because cognitive science encompasses psychology, neuroscience, computer science, and linguistics it has “all of the breadth with none of the depth” and for that reason, they’re on the fence about studying it.
Often people think of the cognitive science as a “jack of all trades” kind of major – which, to an extent is absolutely true, because there is no way that we would become experts in all of those fields in our studies. But there is a lot of added value in being knowledgeable enough about various disciplines to communicate with people from different areas of study (especially when working in cross-functional teams).
The beauty of cognitive science (at least at UCSD) is that we are able to specialize. This helps you focus on the aspects of cognitive science that you find most interesting while still allowing you to be exposed to all of the disciplines and to make your education as broad (or as narrow) as you’d like.
3. What has been your favorite major-related course so far?
My favorite major-related class so far is an upper-division class called Cognitive Design Studio. What I loved about this class was its hands-on approach to learning about human centered design; so much of it was simply learning by doing. This course has been by far the most practical and rewarding course that I have taken thus far. I loved collaborating with my team to create a design brief and real-world design solutions for our client. I learned a lot about user testing and the importance of iterating your design; this course challenged and developed both our team’s design and interpersonal skills.
4. What possible career paths are you looking to pursue after graduation?
After graduating, I would like to pursue a career in product development as a UX designer. I would like to focus on human centered design and work on making products more aesthetically-pleasing and intuitive for users.
5. What kind of advice would you give someone who is just starting the major or is considering going into it?
For those going into college undecided, think about pursuing something interdisciplinary (especially if you have a lot of interests like me). Also, don’t be afraid to seek help. I can’t stress the value of using the resources available to you enough. Talking to professors and advisors definitely helped me answer a lot of my questions about my education. Find the answers you need to help you decide on the right major and career path.
Take a look at these videos to see where a degree in cognitive science might take you! The PathSource website offer visitors 5 free video views. Download our app for free unlimited access.
Visit app.pathsource.com to get PathSource for free today and figure out if cognitive science is right for you. PathSource gives you everything you need to discover your ideal career and lifestyle, with comprehensive tools and resources like assessments, a mobile resume/cover letter builder, and a job board. Find relevant courses, schools, careers, and more through PathSource’s Majors search.
– Candice Tandiono, PathSource Intern